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Steven Smith and Cameron Bancroft accept ball-tampering sanctions | Cricket

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01:59


‘I’m sorry and I’m absolutely devastated’ – Smith


Former Australia captain Steven Smith and Cameron Bancroft will not challenge their bans from international and domestic cricket, and their 12-month ban from leadership positions thereafter, imposed by Cricket Australia for their role in the ball-tampering incident in the Cape Town Test against South Africa.

“I would give anything to have this behind me and be back representing my country,” Smith said on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon. “But I meant what I said about taking full responsibility as captain of the team. I won’t be challenging the sanctions. They’ve been imposed by CA to send a strong message and I have accepted them.”

Smith’s acceptance of his 12-month ban means that he will be able to return to top-flight cricket only around April 2019, about two months before the World Cup is due to begin in England.

Shortly after Smith’s tweet, Bancroft followed suit, saying he too had accepted his nine-month ban. “Today I lodged the paperwork with Cricket Australia and will be accepting the sanction handed down,” he said on Twitter. “I would love to put this behind me and will do whatever it takes to earn back the trust of the Australian public. Thank you to all those who have sent messages of support.

The other banned player David Warner and has not yet announced whether he too would accept his sanction, or take the matter to a hearing. Warner was banned from international and domestic cricket for 12 months and also banned from holding leadership positions in Australian cricket for life.

A day before Smith and Bancroft said they would not be challenging the sanctions, the Australian Cricketers’ Association had said the punishments were “disproportionate” to the gravity of the offence – ball-tampering – and appealed to CA to reduce them.

Play

02:06


‘This is something I will regret for the rest of my life’ – Bancroft


The ball-tampering controversy that erupted on the third day of the Newlands Test, when Bancroft was caught on camera rubbing the ball with sandpaper, also led to Australia’s coach Darren Lehmann resigning at the end of the Test series in South Africa. In the days after the incident, a CA investigation claimed that Warner had come up with the idea and got Bancroft to tamper with the ball, while Smith was in knowledge of the plan and did not prevent it.

Even before CA’s investigation was complete, following the uproar from the public and the government in Australia, the board had stood down Smith and Warner as captain and vice-captain ahead of the fourth day of the Cape Town Test. Wicketkeeper Tim Paine was appointed captain, and Smith and Warner took the field under him as Australia lost the Test that day.

The three players involved were sent home ahead of the final Test in Johannesburg, but before they left South Africa, CA chief executive James Sutherland informed them of their sanctions. Smith and Bancroft held emotional press conferences during which they expressed extreme remorse as soon as they touched down in Sydney and Perth respectively on March 29. Warner held his press conference on March 31 and also broke down while expressing regret over his conduct in South Africa.

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ESPN Sports Media Ltd.










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Warwickshire changes afoot as Paul Farbrace lines up fresh blood

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A review of the coaching set-up at Warwickshire is underway with the expectation there could be changes in personnel.

Warwickshire finished without a win in their five Bob Willis Trophy matches in 2020 and failed to qualify for the quarter-final stages of the T20 Blast. In 2019, Warwickshire just survived in Division One of the County Championship – they finished seventh – and failed to qualify for the knock-out stages in either white-ball competition, finishing eighth in the North Group of the Blast and seventh in the North Group of the One-Day Cup. For a Test-hosting ground with a large playing budget and illustrious history, that is not deemed adequate.

While Paul Farbrace, the club’s sport director, declined to clarify his plans when approached by ESPNcricinfo, it is understood he has reservations about the policy of employing a coaching set-up dominated by recently-retired Warwickshire players.

All four of Warwickshire main coaches – Jim Troughton (head coach), Ian Westwood (second team coach), Tony Frost (batting coach), and Graeme Welch (bowling coach) – played for the club. While several of the individual coaches are well regarded – Welch, in particular, has an outstanding reputation and has several spells as a consultant with the England team – there are suggestions that the combination has created an overly cosy environment. Farbrace joined the club at the start of the 2019 season and, after 18 months in which to observe how it operates, appears to be ready to implement some changes.

Among those understood to be under consideration to join the coaching staff is David Saker. The former England bowling coach is currently with Sri Lanka but has previously been linked to the role of director of cricket with the club. Indeed, he described the position as “ideal” back in 2012.

It is understood there was some contact between Farbrace and Sussex about the vacant head coach role at the club following Jason Gillespie’s departure, but it is thought Farbrace will not be pursuing that opportunity.

Meanwhile, history has repeated itself after Ismail Mohammed, a young batsman of whom much is expected, has left the club to join Worcestershire. Ismail, a nephew of Moeen Ali, is a 16-year-old who has made a good impression in the Birmingham League. But, feeling his opportunities were limited – he was only recently added to the club’s academy – he has followed the path taken by Moeen at the end of 2006 and moved to New Road. His brother, Isaac, remains part of Warwickshire’s youth set-up.

Despite their position in the middle of a large, ethnically diverse city, Warwickshire currently have no players or coaches of BAME background on their senior staff. The club are confident they have things in place to improve this, however, with around 50 percent of their pathway players and almost all of their academy squad coming from such backgrounds.



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Match Preview – Kings XI Punjab vs Mumbai Indians, Indian Premier League 2020 2020, 13th Match

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Big picture

The Kings XI Punjab might still be wondering what hit them after the Rajasthan Royals pulled off the most madcap of heists against them. The Mumbai Indians might still be pondering the what-ifs after a Super Over defeat to the Royal Challengers Bangalore.

They will have to put the wondering and pondering away quickly, though, because the IPL carousel is relentless and remorseless. The Mumbai Indians meet the Kings XI on Thursday in Abu Dhabi, the home ground for the former and a first-time venue for the latter this season.

These are two of the best batting line-ups in the IPL, but there are gaps in both bowling attacks. The Kings XI are possibly the worst death-overs attack in the tournament, while the Mumbai Indians, for whom Hardik Pandya is more or less just a specialist batsman after undergoing back surgery, often end up using only five bowlers, which presents teams a greater chance of using pre-planned match-ups against them.

This meeting comes at a stage when every point seems to matter more than ever. It’s still early days, but the signs point to this being one of the most open seasons in recent times, particularly after the Sunrisers Hyderabad got their first points on Tuesday with a brilliantly controlled performance against the Delhi Capitals. The Mumbai Indians and the Kings XI both seem like strong contenders to make the playoffs this season, but who doesn’t?

In the news

It’s not yet clear if Nathan Coulter-Nile has recovered from the side strain that has kept him out of the Mumbai Indians’ XI so far. If he has, he could come in for James Pattinson and shore up the lower-order batting.

Likely XIs

Mumbai Indians: 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Ishan Kishan, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 James Pattinson/Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Rahul Chahar, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Jasprit Bumrah.

Kings XI Punjab: 1 KL Rahul (capt & wk), 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Karun Nair, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 James Neesham, 7 Sarfaraz Khan, 8 Ravi Bishnoi, 9 M Ashwin, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Mohammed Shami.

Strategy punts

  • Among those who have sent down at least 12 balls in the death (16-20) overs in the IPL this season, three of the four highest economy rates belong to Kings XI bowlers – Chris Jordan (21.50), Sheldon Cottrell (16.00) and Mohammed Shami (15.50). Jordan hasn’t featured since the Kings XI’s season-opener against the Capitals, but Cottrell has played all three of their matches, and given them regular wickets with the new ball. How do you solve such a problem? One possible change they could make is to bring in the mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman for Cottrell, and play one of the three uncapped Indian fast bowlers in their squad – Arshdeep Singh (who played three games last season), Ishan Porel or Darshan Nalkande – in place of M Ashwin, their second Indian spinner. Porel is among the most highly rated young quicks in Indian domestic cricket, while both Singh and Nalkande give the Kings XI a left-arm option. Mujeeb is known for his parsimony in the powerplay, but he’s also quite useful at the death. This year, he’s bowled 16 death overs in 14 T20 games, conceding 6.9 runs per over in that phase. Mujeeb could also come in for the allrounder James Neesham, but that would compromise the Kings XI’s batting depth.

  • Krunal Pandya has been one of the Mumbai Indians’ key performers, but his returns with both bat and ball have dipped of late. Since the finish of IPL 2019, he’s scored 122 runs in 12 innings at a strike rate of 107, and taken only six wickets in 16 innings while conceding 8.1 runs per over. With Hardik not bowling as much as before, the Mumbai Indians might think of swapping Krunal for one of the other spinners in their squad, with Anukul Roy the most like-for-like option as a left-arm spinner who can hit down the order.

Stats that matter

  • Jasprit Bumrah‘s death-overs economy rate this season is 14.6 – significantly higher than the world-class 7.8 he finished with last season. He’s looked a little rusty coming back from the long pandemic-induced break from cricket, and conceded 42 in his four overs against the Royal Challengers. It was only the sixth time he had conceded more than 10 an over for the Mumbai Indians since the 2017 season. The Mumbai Indians have lost five of those six matches.

  • Each time he’s conceded more than 10 an over in the past, though, Bumrah has bounced back strongly. In the matches he has played immediately after the five previous expensive displays, he has cumulatively taken 11 wickets at an average of 11.6, while conceding just 6.4 runs per over. Oh, and three of those bounce-back performances came against the Kings XI.

  • Kings XI also happen to be Bumrah’s favourite IPL opponents. His best average (20.3) and economy rate (6.5) are both against them.

  • KL Rahul, however, likes batting against Bumrah, scoring 82 off 61 balls against him in all T20 cricket while only being dismissed once. Rahul has an excellent recent record against Mumbai, scoring 289 runs in four innings since IPL 2018, averaging 144.5 and striking at 144. Those four innings have brought him two fifties and a hundred.

  • Rahul and Mayank Agarwal have added 30, 57 and 183 in the Kings XI’s three matches this season. They have scored 76% of their team’s total runs.

  • One thing that makes them a difficult opening pair to bowl against is that they have different strengths, and are therefore hard to match up against. Against pace this season, Rahul has a strike rate of 169 and has hit a boundary every 3.8 balls. Against spin, he’s only struck at 117 and hit a boundary every 8.8 balls. Agarwal, though, has gone the opposite way, though without scoring slowly against any one type of bowler: he’s struck at 163 against pace while hitting a boundary every 4.1 balls, and at 196 against pace while hitting a boundary every four balls.

  • Rahul’s performance against spin could be a concern for the Kings XI, though, particularly after the powerplay. He has an excellent strike rate (252) and boundary rate (one every 2.5 balls) against spin with the field restrictions in place, but he’s struck at 121 thereafter, while only finding the boundary once every 10.7 balls.

  • Rohit Sharma is two runs short of 5000 in the IPL.



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T20 Blast – Gareth Batty braced for possible Oval farewell in Surrey quarter-final

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22 years after his first appearance for Surrey at The Oval, Gareth Batty has accepted that Thursday’s T20 Blast quarter-final against Kent could be his last.

It would be foolish to rule out the possibility of him extending his playing career, not least after a Blast campaign in which he has conceded a miserly 6.31 runs per over and recovered from a hamstring injury within two weeks. But at the ripe old age of 42, with his contract up at the end of the season and a coaching position at the club on the table, this may be his final week as a player.

“We’ll get to the end of the season and then we’ll have a sit down,” Batty said. “I have a coaching role [already] so it’s about what is right for the group moving forward. We have to move forward as a club and if that means the claw replaces the pretty average old offspin, so be it.

“If we do decide I don’t play, we’ll be going out for dinner. I’ll buy Vikram [Solanki] and Stewie [Alec Stewart] a slap-up meal for the first time ever, we’ll have a glass of something and I’ll say thanks, to move forward. The exciting bit is that whatever happens, I’m winning.”

ALSO READ: ‘Old blokes win stuff’ – Why experience is key in the T20 Blast

In the absence of the injured Jade Dernbach, Batty captained Surrey for the first seven games of their Blast season before his hamstring problem. They began the tournament with a threadbare squad due to injury and international call-ups, but the number of available players has swelled since: Laurie Evans and Jamie Overton arrived on loan ahead of permanent deals next year, while Rory Burns, Jason Roy and Ben Foakes are back from England bubbles and Hashim Amla arrived from South Africa.

“We played an intra-squad practice game yesterday and I think at one point we had 21 players all fit and available for selection,” Batty said. “It’s a bit of contrast to six weeks ago when we were scrambling around for 11.

“There will be some disappointed boys, but hopefully it stands us in good stead – if we can get over the line tomorrow – with three games in three days. That is pretty full on, so having bodies available and ready to go – and obviously they are quality players – is an advantage for us.”

There will be a dilemma at the top of the order, with a decision to make over who bats where between Roy, Amla, Evans and breakout star Will Jacks, while youngsters Jamie Smith and Gus Atkinson may be squeezed out in order to accommodate more experienced players.

“If some old sod manages to get a few wickets you’ll see a smile on his face; even if he doesn’t, there will still be a smile”

Gareth Batty insists he will be grinning regardless of performance

Batty has been particularly impressed by Overton – whom he dubs Surrey’s “own Andre Russell: bowls rockets, and smacks it out the ground” – since his move from Somerset, and quipped that after a lean summer with the bat in international cricket, Roy has been saving his best for his county.

“He knew he’d get back at some point and thought he’d save them for the good lads,” he laughed. “In our last game he showed what a good player he is: he’s world-class. When Jason plays like that you can count on one hand the better players in the world.

“It’s obvious, but four into three doesn’t go so, someone will bat fractionally out of position. It will be covered off with that player, and no stone left unturned. We are very fortunate to have four exceptional players in the top order, and someone will have a change of role.”

Surrey’s record in T20 has been underwhelming in recent years – they have not reached Finals Day since 2014 – but things have been different this year. They have exploited home conditions to their advantage, playing on used, central pitches to create enormous square boundaries to support their spinners and allow their seamers to bang the ball in, and are on a seven-match winning run heading into Thursday’s quarter-final.

Batty was effusive in his praise for Solanki, and in particular the pre-match planning and preparation that he has put into place in his first season as head coach, and insisted that regardless how he fares against Kent, he will be playing with a smile on his face after wondering if he would step onto the pitch at all this year.

“Whenever I get on the cricket field now it feels like a day out,” he grinned. “[Covid-19] puts things into perspective, it really does. I’m very aware that I’m pretty much done, but it’s nice that you can still contribute in a positive way.

“There’s been some really good cricket played [this season] and there’s been a progression in how people are playing the game. People are learning from how different competitions around the world are accelerating T20 cricket. It’s not the same old mundane ‘he’s going to do this, he’s going to do that’, [teams are] trying to move the game forward.

“Kent are a very dangerous team. We’re very aware of that. They’ve got some very fine players who tore it up with England this year, on a bit of a high. Hopefully we’re all going out there to fulfil our roles and help Surrey over the line. If some old sod manages to get a few wickets you’ll see a smile on his face; even if he doesn’t, there will still be a smile.”



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